Hands-on with Control, a mysterious game that mixes Quantum Break with Doom

As a long time fan of Remedy games, my interest in Control  the Finnish developer’s upcoming third-person shooter  couldn’t be higher. That interest made way for excitement when I was invited to a Control preview event to find out more about its plot, gameplay, and everything in between. Playing a game that I’ve been keenly anticipating for 12 months could have ended in disappointment. After all, if it hadn’t lived up to my lofty expectations I wouldn’t have known what to think. Thankfully, Control delivered and left me feeling hopeful about the finished product.

Control Preview | Unraveling the mystery

Control preview

Remedy has developed a knack for making games with intriguing plots and Control is no different. You take on the role of Jesse Faden, a woman imbued with superpowers following a traumatic childhood experience. Her search for answers regarding her past leads her to a secret government agency known as the Federal Bureau of Control (FBC), which studies the unexplainable and prevents sinister threats from invading Earth.

Jesse arrives as a new supernatural enemy — the Hiss — “leak” through an interdimensional rift, kill the FBC’s director, and begin possessing every FBC employee they can. Installed as the FBC’s new director through mystical means, Jesse must defeat the Hiss, restore control to the Oldest House — the FBC’s HQ — and come to terms with her own demons.

Naturally, Remedy was hesitant to give too much away even at this late stage of development. During the Control preview event, Communications Director Thomas Puha did explain that there’s more to Jesse’s backstory than she’s letting on but, save for one post-mission scene spoiler, declined to elaborate more.

Control‘s plot is in keeping with Remedy’s mix of sci-fi, mystery, and action genres, but all good stories need the gameplay to back them up. Longtime Remedy fans won’t be disappointed to hear that the studio’s signature style evidenced in the likes of Alan Wake and Quantum Break is not only present, but has been improved upon in many respects.

Control Preview | Combat at its fluid and dynamic best

control preview 2

Like Quantum Break before it, Control shines brightest in the heat of combat. Sequences feel pacy, dynamic, and fluid, with an emphasis on movement to stop you from being overwhelmed by enemies.

As Jesse, you have a variety of powers at your disposal. Launch allows you to telekinetically pick up items around you and fling them at enemies. Evade acts as your typical dash mechanic and allows you to jink away from incoming fire or projectiles. Shield, meanwhile, puts a temporary barrier of rocks, concrete, and other solid materials in front of you to deflect enemy fire.

Superpowers aren’t your only weapon, though. The Service Weapon is an all-purpose gun that can be altered to fit your own personal playstyle. Instead of switching between different weapons in a backpack, the Service Weapon is an interchangeable firearm with a variety of modes and loadouts. Grip, for example, works as your standard pistol that fires of one round each time you pull the trigger. Shatter, meanwhile, is a shotgun form that deals high damage at close range.

Switching between your abilities and gun is seamless and allow you to chain attacks together, but you won’t be able to spam them. The Service Weapon and your abilities have cooldown periods, and how you balance them is key to your survival. Different enemies require distinct tactics to be eliminated, and the tougher individuals certainly pose a challenge. Exploding Hiss Charged foes and grenade-launching Hiss Troopers, for instance, need to be disposed of via different methods, so you’ll always need to think about adapting your attack sequences.

A lackadaisical approach, or your inability to keep an eye on your health meter, can also spell disaster against enemy hordes or bigger foes. Unlike other Remedy games, you don’t regenerate health by hiding in cover. Instead, defeated enemies drop health shards  called Source — that you have to pick up to regain health. It adds a new layer to Control‘s combat and forces an aggressive combat approach akin to 2016’s Doom.

Control Preview | A new nonlinear approach

Control preview

Control‘s combat mechanics aren’t the only new approach from Remedy. The Oldest House’s setting and supernatural vibe enabled the development team to move away from linear gameplay and open up the world for exploration.

You’re under no obligation to tread from the beaten path as Control still retains that familiar linear feel that Remedy fans know about. In branching into open-ended levels and side missions, however, Control lets you uncover the FBC’s secrets, explore the world’s lore, and acquire new abilities, Service Weapon upgrades, and gear. This open-ended approach makes Control‘s world feel bigger and more lived in, and adds a fresh spin on Remedy titles that we haven’t seen before.

Progressing through the Old House’s labyrinth of rooms can lead to all sorts of interactions and new areas. On the “Directorial Override” mission that I played, there was an abundance of corridors and secret areas just waiting to be explored. Turning down one corner, I found myself completing a side mission to unlock the Evade ability, while heading in the opposite direction took me to a room filled with boxes of goodies to customize my weapon with.

The demo also gave me a good indication of how difficult Control will be to master. Head in the wrong direction, or get in over your head, and you will be greeted with the death screen. As Puha put it: “You will die.” But that’s also part of Control‘s charm; it provides a challenge if you go looking for one, and failing to overcome obstacles first time around will make you a better player. During the hour-long session, I died three times. Replaying those sections made me rethink how to best approach them, and showed me that there’s plenty of ways to progress through a mission.

Control Preview | Prepare to launch

Control preview

With the game’s launch only a couple of months away, there are still niggles that need to be sorted out. After one notable death, it took a long time for the game to reload my last checkpoint. On another occasion, a couple of floating enemies were immune to my powers and bullets; a frustrating glitch that prevented me from progressing through an as-yet-undiscovered area. Judging by my experience, only a few tweaks and some polish will make it ready for release, so I can’t imagine these technical hiccups will be in abundance in the full game.

Control looks like it could be another winner for Remedy. The gameplay has been refined, the plot and setting mean that there’s a lot of mystery to uncover, and its challenging nature will make you feel accomplished when you complete objectives. August 27 can’t come soon enough, and I’ll certainly be immersing myself in everything it has to offer on release day.